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Jailer - Much Ado About Rajini

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Following two of yesteryear’s biggest critical failures in the forms of 2021’s ‘Beast’ and 2022’s ‘Annathe.’ director Nelson and Superstar Rajinikanth join hands for one of the year’s highly anticipated films ‘Jailer.’ Nelson’s debut and sophomore features were critical darlings, both crime thrillers filled to the brim with black humour. His sudden downfall may have been due to mishandling a Tamil industry heavyweight, Vijay, for ‘Beast,’ leading to a bland action film, where the humour takes a back seat. Nelson decides to double down by signing on an even trickier assignment with Rajinikanth, which has turned out to be an uneven venture. 

The film follows Rajinikanth’s ‘Tiger’ Muthuvel Pandian, a former jail warden who is enjoying his twilight years post-retirement with his family. His wife is played by Ramya Krishnan, who is barely onscreen for much of the runtime, and his son Arjun, who followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming a police officer, is played by Vasanth Ravi. Arjun’s involvement in a case investigating stolen deific statues causes tension between the family and a brutal smuggler, Varman played by Vinayakan. The plot takes many twists and turns as a cat-and-mouse game takes place between Muthuvel and Varman. 

The film’s tone is inconsistent. The plot and themes are sidelined to instead celebrate the star of the film. The momentum of the film dissipates following the interval, where the plot takes a strange left turn. This second act, despite the mismatch with the rest of the film, is the most interesting part of the film, and the most in line with Nelson’s comedic sensibilities. The best performance of the film is Vinayakan’s Varman, a villain whose maniacal persona contrasts excellently with Muthuvel’s mostly stoic nature. Sunil’s ‘Blast’ Mohan and Varman’s group of goons provide most of the comedic meat of the film, whereas Nelson regulars Yogi Babu, Redin Kingsley and VTV Ganesh are not provided much scope for their usual humorous antics. 

The film also employs numerous cameos from other states. Mohan Lal, Shivaraj Kumar, Jackie Shroff disappear as quickly as they appear, and seem to be a blatant attempt at generating buzz in the rest of India. They play no real part in the proceedings of the film. 

There are certainly standout sequences: the assassins following Rajinikanth at night and the ‘Kaavaalaa’ song picturisation display Nelson’s capabilities in top form, however much else of the film pales in comparison. Moments of wonderful lighting, set design and cinematography shine in comparison to a film made up of mostly extreme close-ups, glorifying its hero. A flashback sequence is reminiscent of Robert De Niro’s de-aged performance in ‘The Irishman’; although the makeup department should be lauded, the star’s movement and body language give the game away. 

Anirudh’s music does most of the heavy-lifting for the film, providing Rajinikanth with a rousing score. The background music does a good job at encapsulating the star’s larger-than-life persona. ‘Kaavaalaa’ is a great number with funky instrumentation courtesy of the didgeridoo, which is incorporated very well within the film. ‘Hukum’ and ‘Jujubee’ are also addictive tracks. 

Rajinikanth’s career has been spotty since 2010’s ‘Enthiran.’ Although ‘Petta’ is seen as the star’s return to form, it held a similar level of fan service as one sees in ‘Jailer.’ Personally, ‘Kaala’ has been Rajini’s best film of the last fifteen years, and this is due to the director focussing as much time on the plot and themes as he does with pleasing the crowds. Nelson’s ‘Doctor’ is by far his best film, and this is due to spending most of his time doing what he does best, black humour. Overall, ‘Jailer’ is a treat for Rajini fans, but lacks the essential ingredients necessary for a great film.

Krishna's rating: 2.5 stars


Official trailer for film below.

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